LONG Trip Report

Posted by Mac on Nov 17, 2004

This is LONG! If you can come up with anything better to do - do it!

'Kay, this is for the heavy weights out there.

(A heavy weight is someone who is gravity enhanced (like me), or someone who may be paddling a fully loaded yak, or both (gulp).

Yesterday I took what might be my last paddle of the season here in Montreal. I can hope for one of those freak western shanook (sp) winds to flee eastward, but who am I kidding? To show you how late in the season it is, much to my dismay, the Federal waterway authorities have already removed the bouys here on the Ottawa / St. Larwence River.

I discovered this after I had made it upstream by a scenic, but circuitous and unmarked route to the bottom end of some rapids. At that point you're supposed to spin around and head directly for the bouys marking a very narrow channel in a very wide river. I spun, I whooped! I pooped! NO BOUYS! Oh (censored)! Now I'm doing Mach 1 through turbulent water where the old Polarized specs aren't helping me see anything below the surface.

"Still water runs deep". Well, wouldn't you know it? All the moonshiners had packed it in for the year and there weren't any stills.

Just as I figure I'm gonna make it, my beautiful Greenland-shaped prow gracefully lifts skyward and I literaly GRIND to a halt.

The rocks in this part of the river aren't moss covered and aren't smooth. The ice explodes them into new, sharp shapes every winter.

I'm stuck big time. I keep expecting the current to grab the stern and swing it sideways, but no, I'm really stuck.

Later, when inspecting the damage, I realized how lucky I was not to have run the keel up a single rock, which would have dumped me to one side or the other for sure. Instead, the keel ran into a 2 inch gap between two equally high rocks - or a 2" split in one rock. Either way I was at least balanced to some extent - but stuck.

After my heart rate slowed somewhat, I looked down into the water on either side and saw only the sides of the rock(s) upon which I was mounted. The bottom was at least 3' deep on either side. This precluded me getting out sans capsize. I back paddled as hard as I could - nada. At this point, the humor of the situation mixed with the adrenalin, and I started to giggle. Fortunately I was about 200 yards from either shore so if there were any bystanders they couldn't hear me.

I back-paddled hard to one side only. With great protest and grinding she started to yaw to the point where I saw a place where I could jam the end of my beautiful wooden paddle. Jamed, shoved, humped, and moved about 6", and spun back to original orientation. Giggles turned to (oh $#@*&) as I was now listing badly to port. Strange what goes through your mind when all the chips are down - I mean at this point I'm convinced I'm going for a very cold swim before a watery grave. I've watched Derek Huchinson's "Beyond the Cockpit" several times, and even practiced a few braces in warm, calm water. What the heck! Kneehung way into the port side with an extended paddle high brace and, without another groan of protest, we were free!

I frantically depth charged and hip flicked back to vertical with nothing more than a really wet right arm.

Now, I had a hundred yards or so of back paddling to check forward speed through the rest of this rock strewn maze. Took about 10 minutes, but made it with no further incident - probably negotiated another dozen hazards just below the surface. All this time, I'm wordering if I'm going to get a chance to put my hand pump to use. Below the spray skirt, I'm sure I can feel water creeping up my ankles. As soon as I can, I open the front of the skirt and - dry as a bone.

I am so high at this point, I paddle for another hour. I think I'm just putting off looking at the horror that awaits me below the water line. I sure keep to deeper water though - using the chart I purchased to go with my spiffy new compass - which was the point of this paddle in the first place. Life is wonderful the second time around. Enjoyed all the various ducks hiding from the hunters further downstream. The geese have pretty much flown by now.

OK, back at the put in, I flip the old Sea Lion on her side expecting to see raw okoume and entrails. I see 4 foot long linear scratches on either side of the keel line from the middle of the forward hatch to just in front of my seat. There I see the results of the pivoting actions - again through the blue paint, a bit of the white primer and just into the glass. No wood showing! I can't believe it! These kayaks are tough!

I am very glad I glassed the inside of my cockpit. LeeG is very big on glassing the inside bottom panels of the front and back hatches. I can see why, and certainly will do so on my next build. I think the biggest issue in this type of incident is the plywood flexing linearly (2 plys front-to-back vs only one sideways) and cracking the epoxy seal on the inside. I was lucky that the bulk of the stress was under my double glassed cockpit.

Took her home, reved up the ol' ROS, sanded the area relatively smooth, donned mask, and slapped on the last of my two part Epifanes Poly (pew!)

Barely the worse for wear - boat and paddler.

Oh, as for the Bending Branches paddle - yea for Rockguard! Really minimized the damage - leaving one nick on an edge which will remind me to be more careful in future. Nah, it'll remind me to embellish this story even more with each telling.

That's why I'm entrusting the first printing to the sanity of this forum - keep me honest!

Told ya it was long! For those who've made it this far, thank you.

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(Just kidding!)